Paper $27.50 ISBN: 9780226473970 Published November 2017
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Paraliterary

The Making of Bad Readers in Postwar America

Merve Emre

Paraliterary

Merve Emre

304 pages | 21 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2017
Paper $27.50 ISBN: 9780226473970 Published November 2017
Cloth $85.00 ISBN: 9780226473833 Published November 2017
E-book $27.50 About E-books ISBN: 9780226474021 Published November 2017
Literature departments are staffed by, and tend to be focused on turning out, “good” readers—attentive to nuance, aware of history, interested in literary texts as self-contained works. But the vast majority of readers are, to use Merve Emre’s tongue-in-cheek term, “bad” readers. They read fiction and poetry to be moved, distracted, instructed, improved, engaged as citizens. How should we think about those readers, and what should we make of the structures, well outside the academy, that generate them?
We should, Emre argues, think of such readers not as non-literary but as paraliterary—thriving outside the institutions we take as central to the literary world. She traces this phenomenon to the postwar period, when literature played a key role in the rise of American power. At the same time as American universities were producing good readers by the hundreds, many more thousands of bad readers were learning elsewhere to be disciplined public communicators, whether in diplomatic and ambassadorial missions, private and public cultural exchange programs, multinational corporations, or global activist groups. As we grapple with literature’s diminished role in the public sphere, Paraliterary suggests a new way to think about literature, its audience, and its potential, one that looks at the civic institutions that have long engaged readers ignored by the academy.
 
Contents
Introduction
Pop Quiz

Chapter One
Reading as Imitation

Chapter Two
Reading as Feeling

Chapter Three
Brand Reading

Chapter Four
Sight Reading

Chapter Five
Reading like a Bureaucrat

Chapter Six
Reading like a Revolutionary

Conclusion
Retracing One’s Steps
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index
Review Quotes
Deborah Nelson, University of Chicago
Paraliterary does for the history, theory, and practice of reading in the late twentieth century what The Program Era did for writing:  profoundly upend what we thought we knew about how institutions other than the university have shaped our culture and our engagement with it.  Merve Emre’s book is essential reading for scholars of post45 and anyone else who wants to understand where our assumptions about literary fiction come from and how we came to take them as self-evident.”
Sean McCann, Wesleyan University
Paraliterary represents a major work of scholarship. A product of innovative conceptualization, deep research, and keen critical insight, this book will have a significant impact on several fields of literary study and cultural history. Scholars of American literature, of the cultural Cold War, of the sociology of literature, and of literary theory will be discussing it intently and referring to it often for years to come.”
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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